Nomadland ★★★★

Hits much closer to home than I expected. This year, I’ve moved houses six times and while my view of home has never been concrete, it has certainly become much more convoluted during this time. My experiences are far different from Fern’s, but this film is able to put me in the same drifting, physically impermanent state as her.

And very well, might I add. The documentary-level realism that Zhao employs works wonders in capturing the both the vastness of the American West and the intimacy of Fern’s nomadic lifestyle. But the big surprise is how optimistic the film is. Even with some sad moments, there’s always an air of excitement to where Fern will go next, both physically and spiritually.

It is about embracing the circumstances of time and finding meaning in inevitable change. As Fern’s sister suggests, the nomads closely resemble the early American pioneers, forging new paths and new communities.

Beautifully told no doubt, but I was caught off guard by the subtlety of the film’s emotional core, and how easy it is to miss. Fern’s development, partly due to the lack of escalation in the plot (read: which is not always a bad thing), is a bit difficult to track. I also find it to be thematically very obvious throughout, but another viewing will solidify my thoughts on both of those minor criticisms. Will definitely be seeing this in theaters again.

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